Transport Canada publishes concerns with in-vehicle telematics

OTTAWA, (June 18, 2003) — Transport Canada has published a discussion paper in the Canada Gazette Part 1 that deals with reducing driver distraction from in-vehicle telematics devices.

While the paper is aimed at the increasing trend of cell phone use and new telematics technology in luxury automobiles, the intervention strategies explored in the document affect the complete motoring public, including commercial drivers.

The trucking industry has been the pioneer on telematics technology, as many cabs on the road today are already equipped with such devices, including Global Positioning Systems, on-board computers and Internet, and motion detecting systems.

Transport Canada is concerned with a proliferation of telematics devices that may affect road safety. While cellular phones are currently the most common type of telematics device used in vehicles, other telematics applications are entering the market. The paper discusses concerns with both “driver assistance systems” (collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane change and parking aids), and “infotainment systems” (navigation and communication systems like e-mail, Internet, and location-based GPS systems that provide information such as gas stations, restaurants, traffic and weather).

The government is concerned that current efforts by both the telematics and vehicle manufacturing industries may not effectively control the amount of driver distraction from telematics devices. A future study — which includes consultation with other regulatory stakeholders like the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators — will review possible safety standards (either voluntary or regulatory) for industry to manufacture such devices to be better integrated in the vehicle system, and to be more driver-compatible.

The study will also highlight possible improvements or limits to “feature-rich” telematics functions that Transport Canada has deemed to be problematic when a vehicle is in-gear. Possible suggestions discussed in the report include: disabling certain telematics operations (like e-mail or Internet) while the vehicle is in-gear; Dramatically reducing glance time away from the road by limiting multi-functional, on-screen displays and controls; limiting customizable interfaces to a driver’s own preferences; scrolling limits; and prohibiting graphical on-screen displays.

While the purpose of the document was to simply outline Transport Canada’s concerns with driver distraction, the next step is to being both regulatory and industry parties together to discuss those concerns and rule which of the proposed government interventions are feasible.

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